So, The Retail Marijuana Industry Is Doing Really Well

With Californians slated to vote on recreational marijuana legalization this November, here’s something to chew on: retail marijuana sales are predicted to reach $4.5 billion this year, the Associated Press reports. Sure, this news would have been even cooler if sales were predicted to reach, say, $4.20 billion but still, wow. You might say the industry is starting to blaze up.

According to Marijuana Business Daily’s editorial director Chris Walsh, retail marijuana sales in the United States doubled between 2013 and 2015. The industry employs roughly 100,000 Americans, and about 90 percent of marijuana business ventures are profitable, Walsh claims. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 19 states, while marijuana is legal for recreational use in only four states, but come November, we could see these numbers get high(er).

And for a number of reasons, moral, economic, and health related, legal marijuana would merit celebration.

In states like Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, taxes on legal recreational marijuana raised $44 million in 2014, and $66 million by 2015, through a 10 percent sales tax and additional 15 percent excise tax on recreational pot in the state.

Despite intensive anti-drug programs in most public schools, this revenue has contributed to school construction, youth mentoring, bullying prevention grants, drop-out prevention grants, funding for youth career development programs, and even “drug education and prevention programs,” according to ATTN:.

News about the retail marijuana industry’s profits follows relatively recent studies that combat the prevalent myth that marijuana harms the brain, although it can be detrimental to the still-developing brains of minors, NPR reported in 2014. Still, it’s worth noting that cannabis does have a host of health benefits, from killing cancer cells and easing seizures and paralysis, to potentially lowering body mass index and helping women achieve orgasm.

This news also follows the resurfacing of a 22-year-old interview by Harper’s Magazine in which top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman admitted that the War on Drugs was largely initiated to target “black people” and “the antiwar left.”

marijuana retail legalization
CREDIT: Pacific Press/Getty Images

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman told the magazine. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

So, while the failed War on Drugs and mass incarceration problem it created cost trillions of dollars, legal retail marijuana is expected to rake in $4.5 billion just this year, while excise taxes on the drug are funding positive initiatives left and right. I repeat: Something to chew on, my fellow Californians. Something to chew on…